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An Illustrated History of Mohegan Lake
Part 3: The Mohegan Resorts 

By David O. Wright

This feature is accompanied by a portfolio of photos of Lake Mohegan during the 20th Century. Click here to view the portfolio, or click an individual picture on this page to view an enlargement. Parts 1 and 2 of the Illustrated History of Mohegan Lake are available:
Click here to read Part 1
Click here to read Part 2

The late 1800s and early 1900s saw Mohegan develop into a famous resort community. Lured by easy train travel in a few hours, city residents could experience total rural relaxation and a beautiful lake. Some ten resorts operated for 50 years, offering lodging and first-rate entertainment. Among the more famous were the Mohegan Country Club and Bungalow Colony, located on Route 6 (where the Lakeside and Villas condominiums are now); The Sonoqua Lodge (Mohegan Avenue and Christine, on the East side); Uncas Lodge on Crown Island; Tall Timbers (Mohegan Avenue and Scofield on the East side); Lakelawn Cottages (Mohegan Avenue on the East side); Rock Hill Lodge (Holland Club property on the West side); the Shanty; the St. Nicholas Hotel; and the Mohegan Inn.

In addition, Mohegan Colony was established at the South end of the lake in 1930 as a utopian attempt to provide an egalitarian way of living and raising one’s family. Part of the Modern School movement, Mohegan Colony was a hotbed of new thinking. The Colony established its own school, and had some 300 families. The homeowner association survives, and strives to retain some of the history. However, in the 1950s, deeded restrictive covenants (which required people in that area to join the homeowner association) expired after a court decision.

What all of them had in common was the enjoyment of the lake, the centerpiece of their community. Most had “swimming cribs” which provided a safe area within which to swim, safe from the denizens of the lake depths, and allowing others to boat freely on the lake. Children played games of finding colored stones on the bottom of the lake-as the water was clear to depths of 10 feet or more. And, up to 1991, power boats zoomed back and forth on the one mile long lake.

Late 1900s: Just Another Suburb

As the century wore on, however, people began to lose interest in Mohegan Lake. To relax, people began to go to other resort communities in the Catskills and the Adirondacks, and elsewhere. At the same time, the lake began to feel the effects of so many people. The lake began to experience “eutrophication” - the byproduct of civilization - and algae appeared more and more. By the 1970’s, the lake was frequently unusable for pleasant swimming, and more development was on the way.

In 1975, the Town of Yorktown approved yet further development on the lake - some 600 units of multifamily housing, all to be put on giant septic tanks.

Mohegan residents, now strong enough to constitute a year-round voting force, rebelled. Led by a small group of local residents, they organized and sued the Town of Yorktown - and won. Hiring an expert biologist, the residents argued that no more development should be allowed on the lake until sewers were installed. Ken Saum, Bob Potemski, and others, won a major victory which helped to preserve the lake for future generations.

The task is not yet complete, but the continued organization of Mohegan Lake residents can help to assure that the heritage which we have inherited will live on for future generations. Since 1975, the Mohegan Lake District has served as a community structure for the neighborhood. Jointly established by Yorktown and Cortlandt after the residents’ big court victory, the District manages the lake, but its meetings often allow different homeowner associations from around the lake to share other information.

There are currently several active homeowner associations or beach districts, most of which operate swimming beaches on the lake. These include, from North to South on the East side, Shrub Oak Lake Estates (SOLE), Mohegan Highlands, Mohegan Beach Park, Alpine Woods, Amazon Beach and Mohegan Colony. The only active beach on the West side is Section I.

In 1992, the Town also agreed to preserve the Holland Sporting Club property - 15 acres jutting out into the middle of the lake - for passive recreational use. The Town expects to take title to the property shortly, but the future of the last of the great Mohegan resort hotels, still in existence on the property, is in doubt. Current plans are to bulldoze the structure.

Perhaps Lake Mohegan, born in the last great ice age 10,000 years ago, will continue to serve future generations of Mohegan Lake residents.

Note: This article is based on David's annual slide show presented at Lake Day in June; it is a work in progress, and David appreciates contributions of old photos, stories, and information. Photos can be scanned and returned. David can be reached at 962-1039.

Continuation in a series of predictions about the 20th Century from The Ladies Home Journal of December 1900 (click HERE for the complete list of predictions):

Prediction #9Photographs will be telegraphed from any distance. If there be a battle in China a hundred years hence snapshots of its most striking events will be published in the newspapers an hour later. Even to-day photographs are being telegraphed over short distances.  Photographs will reproduce all of Nature’s colors.

Prediction #10Man will See Around the World. Persons and things of all kinds will be brought within focus of cameras connected electrically with screens at opposite ends of circuits, thousands of miles at a span. American audiences in their theatres will view upon huge curtains before them the coronations of kings in Europe or the progress of battles in the Orient. The instrument bringing these distant scenes to the very doors of people will be connected with a giant telephone apparatus transmitting each incidental sound in its appropriate place. Thus the guns of a distant battle will be heard to boom when seen to blaze, and thus the lips of a remote actor or singer will be heard to utter words or music when seen to move.

Predictions 1 through 8 can be found in feature articles starting with December 1999. Click here for a menu of past issues. 

The Yorktown Historical Society updates the home page with seasonally appropriate articles and information. Click here to read our past issues.